Tag Archives: meet the staff

Getting ready for Europhilex 2015

BPMA newbie and Fundraising Assistant Cat shares all that has gone into preparing for the largest stamp event in Europe – Europhilex 2015

I have just had my two month anniversary working for the BPMA and what a busy two months it has been! I don’t think I could have joined the BPMA at a better time with so many events coming up and it being such a crucial time in the run up to the opening of The Postal Museum and Mail Rail. At the moment, my work has been largely focusing on philately (my new favourite word) and the upcoming Europhilex show. I have been working really closely with our Fundraising Events Officer, Sarah Jenkins who having worked on the regular Stampex shows, has been my philately guru and mentor.

Reading through our article in the London 2015 newsletter

Reading through our article in the Europhilex newsletter

Together, we have made our way through what has sometimes seemed a never-ending to-do list to prepare the BPMA stand at Europhilex. One of the highlights of my first week was watching Sarah and our Marketing and Commercial Assistant Katie use their creativity to map out the stand space in an empty office, using any objects they could find. I think it was at this point that I realised this job was going to be an interesting and unique one!

One lucky winner will go home with a print from the original Penny Black die - visit our stand this week for more details

One lucky winner will go home with a print from the original Penny Black die – visit our stand this week for more details.

I have been amazed at just how much work goes into every event that the BPMA hold. Talks about Europhilex began months before I even started. For the stand, we have worked to a strict timetable with regular meetings discussing all of the details in turn.  I will admit this now;  in these meetings I often found myself writing words in my pad and referring to my good friend Google….the nod and smile tactic was used quite a lot. There have been a lot of discussions around the star of the show – the Machin cast – which will have its own spotlight and plinth. Treatment fit for a Queen!

The Star of the Show - the Machin Cast

The Star of the Show – the Machin Cast

Alongside planning the stand, I have also been organising bits ‘n bobs for events we are holding around Europhilex week including an Afternoon Tea for invited guests. I constantly made the error of ordering cakes and canapés for these events before lunch. I never knew a job could also make you so hungry. This experience has been an incredible one and I am just so excited to see it all in action next week at Europhilex. Wish me luck!

If you want to follow our progress next week then stay tuned to the BPMA on Twitter, where I will be posting updates all week.’

Meet the Staff: Day in the life of a Team Support Officer

Each month we are sharing what a typical day is like across the BPMA through our Meet the Staff series. This month our Team Support Officer Deepa stepped up to the challenge.

I am Deepa of House Admin and Central Functions; BPMA Team Support Officer, First of Her Role, Reporter of Facilities Issues, Coverer of Maternal Leave, Scanner of A4 Documents, and Assistor to all BPMA departments who require a hand. I’m very lucky to have a fantastically varied job that involves working with most of my colleagues in their various departments at some point.

Working at my desk with an essential cup of tea in hand.

Working at my desk with an essential cup of tea in hand.

My day-to-day work covers a range of semi-regular activities- logging call outs with the Royal Mail Helpdesk whenever things need fixing around our two London locations and letting people know that help will be with them shortly, requesting access to the Mail Rail tunnels for colleagues to get up to all manner of exciting subterranean activities, gathering and distributing paperwork for our Senior Management Team ahead of their fortnightly meetings and arranging their annual away days, and trying to not kill the Director’s plant on my windowsill despite its complete lack of a will to live (why does it keep flowering when it’s clearly half dead?) – that I tend to from the ergonomic comfort of my desk in North Islington.

Our Director's resilient plant

Director’s resilient plant

As our Secretary to the Trustees is currently off tending to her new addition I am also helping out by covering these duties while she’s away. The quarterly board meetings tend to require preparation to start at least a month in advance, and then can be supplemented with additional meetings in between so there’s always something to do from scheduling meetings between staff and trustees, to preparing, printing and posting reports for them ahead of meetings, then writing them up in a (hopefully) timely manner.

Important and colourful work

Timetable of board meetings and all other happenings at the BPMA

-Deepa Sebastian, Team Support Officer

Meet the Staff: Day in the life of BPMA’s Head of Archives

In this month’s Meet the Staff blog, find out what a typical (or not so typical) day is like for our Head of Archives and Records Management, Vicky Parkinson.

My name’s Vicky and my main responsibility is looking after the archive on behalf of Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd.  This covers a huge amount of tasks, from helping the companies manage their current records off-site, ensuring that the environmental conditions in our store are right for the archive, to ensuring the public search room runs smoothly, and having input into the exhibition design in the new museum gallery. IMG_7385 Most days start off in Freeling House, with breakfast to help me recover from commuting into London with my three year old, who goes to nursery next door. I then dash over to our other office to attend our exhibitions and events planning group. My colleague Helen and I wanted to get the group’s thoughts on events for Explore your Archives in November. This year it will fall on our Saturday opening, so watch this space to see what we come up with! Then it was a brisk walk back to Freeling House, to give a tour of the archive to a donor or supporter. Tours are my favourite part of my job. No matter what people’s interests there’s always something in the archive they’ll find interesting. On this tour we looked at the cash books from the second half of the 17th Century, a graphic for the proposed sub-division of London into Districts from 1838 and ended with my favourite part of the archive, the posters and poster artwork.

Showing The Rt Hon. Jo Swinson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment relations, consumer and postal affairs around our search room and archive with current BPMA Chair (left) Dr Helen Forde

Showing The Rt Hon. Jo Swinson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment relations, consumer and postal affairs around our search room and archive with current BPMA Chair (left) Dr Helen Forde.

Up close picture of artwork for a poster. One of my favourite objects in the collection. Artist: Ronald Watson POST 109-158

Up close picture of artwork for a poster. One of my favourite objects in the collection. Artist: Ronald Watson POST 109-158

After a quick lunch it was time to sit down and attack my email inbox, which included looking over details on the latest plan for the new search room at The Postal Museum, where we will be moving to at the end of 2016. We are finalising the details of the room arrangement, from where the reference library shelves will go right down to the number and placement of power points! Time for one last task before the end of the day, looking through a list of semi-current files, to determine whether or not they are likely to be of historical importance or should be destroyed. Only between 2-5% of records that an organisation creates are permanently preserved in an archive. Public Records Legislation sets out how that decision should be made, and we have a rigorous appraisal process in place. It’s then time to pick my daughter up from nursery and face my biggest challenge of the day, my commute home.

-Vicky Parkinson, Head of Archives and Records Management

Meet the Staff: Day in the life of an Exhibitions Officer

In this edition of Meet the Staff, Dominique talks about what it is a like to be an Exhibitions Officer at the BPMA.

Hi, my name’s Dominique and I’m the Exhibitions Officer here at the BPMA. My role is really varied and interesting. I get to work closely with the stories and objects that we hold in our fantastic collection, which I think makes me very lucky.

Very excited to find a Edward VIII pillar box!

I am also a post box enthusiast. Here I am with a very rare Edward VIII pillar box!

How do you cram 500 years of communications history into an exhibition? It’s certainly a challenge, but one I enjoy. Most of my time is spent developing new temporary and touring exhibitions. I also work on the design of the exhibition spaces for The Postal Museum with Mail Rail, due to open in late 2016.

Planning the layout of cases. Simple mock ups using a tape measure and paper really help!

Planning the layout of cases. Simple mock ups using a tape measure and paper really help!

My day completely depends on which exhibition I am working on, and whether we are developing it, or installing it. I love this variety, and being able to see a project right through to delivery.

An average day at the moment will start with me checking requests for our four touring exhibitions. Last Post– our First World War exhibition, has been particularly popular with a variety of host venues recently, due to the centenary of the First World War. I will also telephone Ironbridge Gorge Museums, to check on our larger version of the Last Post exhibition, which they are hosting until the end of March. One of the stories the exhibition tells is of Infantryman Reg Sims, who, in 12 months on the Front, received 167 letters, and himself wrote 242 letters. Telling these individual stories reinforces, for me, why the story that our exhibition is telling is so important.

At mid-morning I will move on to writing exhibition text for our new exhibition: ‘Pop it in the Post: Your world at the end of the street. This exhibition talks about the Victorian letter writing revolution, and how the introduction of the humble pillar box- initially in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, transformed how people were able to post their letters and keep in touch. I write around 200 words, and include about 5 images per panel although I tend to write double the amount of words needed for each panel, and then have to edit it down. Writing the text follows several months work deciding on the exhibition themes, and key messages. Text writing is hugely collaborative – with input from colleagues from the Curatorial, Communications, and Learning teams. We all have to be happy with the messages, and make sure that the text is aimed at the right audience- in this case, families with 7 to 11 year olds.

A character from our new exhibition: a victorian letter carrier

A character from our new exhibition: a victorian letter carrier

Text writing will take me through to mid-afternoon. My final job of the day is to check on the object list for The Postal Museum exhibition space. The shortlist for display currently stands at around 300 objects, and I am responsible for finalising these choices, which are then sent to our offsite designers. Potential objects for display currently include pistols, a cross-written letter, an intact sheet of  Penny Blacks, and a gleaming 19th century mail coach. It is unbelievably exciting to help ensure that these objects will be displayed to the public – some for the first time – and to share with new audiences the richness and diversity of our collection!


Our Mail Coach which will be on display in The Postal Museum.

And by then it’s time to head home. As I leave work and walk along Upper Street in Angel, I can’t help but notice the pillar boxes and telephone kiosks that I pass- that remind me of the amazing street furniture that we have in our own collection!


#AskaCurator: Day in the life of a BPMA Curator

This Wednesday Curator Joanna Espin will be available to answer any questions you might have on Twitter for #AskACurator day! In today’s blog, she gives us an idea about what it means to be a BPMA Curator.

The main purpose of my job is to prepare the museum collection to move to our new museum.

Opening a box

Opening a box

I arrive at about 8:30am and my first task is to check the work progress spreadsheet, which shows all of the shelves in the repository and is colour coded to mark which shelves are ready to move and which ones are yet to be completed.  We are 93% of the way through housing aisles B-F and need to be at 100% by the end of the year.

Aisle F

Aisle F

This is my first job as a Curator and it is a fantastic opportunity to handle and house an amazingly diverse collection. I have re-housed so many interesting objects, including original evidence from the Great Train Robbery. I follow a strict procedure for auditing the collection, re-housing objects and updating their location.

Before it has been prepared for the move.

Before it has been prepared for the move.

As I am still quite new to the role, a part of the day may be dedicated to training. I have recently received manual handling training, and can proudly say that I can move a telephone kiosk when called to do so!

I moved to my current role from the BPMA Philatelic team and I spend one day a week with the Philatelic department, assisting with preparations to move the stamp artwork collection to a new storage facility. Our next task is to tie approximately 600 boxes with pink archival tape, to ensure the security of the boxes during the move.

I finish work at about 5pm. At the weekend I go home to Yorkshire and spend some time in the countryside with my border terrier.

Chester outside of the BPMA

Chester outside of the BPMA

Have any questions for me or the rest of the curatorial team? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and we will answer you on Wednesday.

-Joanna Espin, Curator

Meet the staff: Day in the life of an Archive Assistant

In this morning’s blog Penny McMahon highlights the different jobs and functions that she does as an Archives/Records Assistant.  


The day starts at 9am, I normally log the visitors and requisition forms from the day before. The visitors are logged to keep track of the different interests our users have, to spot any trends and make changes to the services we offer accordingly. The requisitions are also logged –‘requisitions’ is the term we use to describe fetching original archival items from the repository. This information is recorded so that when deciding on which material to digitise or pin point items that need preservation treatment, we can select the most frequently used items. The information is also gathered in case the item goes missing-we can look up the date it was last retrieved and who the last person to look at it was.


At 10am the search room opens to the public and our friendly postman arrives with the mail. As well as bringing us letter enquiries we also receive donations from the public and Royal Mail through the post. Giving these donations unique references to identify them and putting a basic description in our catalogue database is essential to keeping track of these. The thought donators take to send these items in is appreciated. However, it is useful to have as much background information as possible about an item and prefer it when people call us before going to the expense of posting an item to us. You can view the museum collection policies on this page on our website.

Me carrying out research for an enquirer.

Me carrying out research for an enquirer.


By 11am we normally have several researchers in the search room. The exciting thing about working in the search room team is the variety of interests that researchers have. We don’t know who is going to walk through the door.  Family historians are a significant portion of the archives users; this is because the General Post Office was one of the biggest employers in Great Britain and these employee records can be hugely insightful. As family historians normally use the archive once or twice and the records they are interested in are so specific, they require quite a lot of help to guide them through the archives. I find family historians are some of the most rewarding users to help, I think because of their personal connection to the records.

The BPMA also attracts a number of academic researchers, including PhD students that use our archives to gather insight into the social history of Great Britain. As the Post Office is a national and international network, the records in the archives document the social and technological changes across the centuries. The BPMA has a number of partnerships with different universities supporting these students. These students know the collections and catalogue well and require little help, but they get through the records fast, so we spend a lot of time retrieving records from the repository for them.

Remote Enquiries

The info mailbox receives around 160 email enquiries a month; we also receive enquiries by phone and by letter. Some of these are straightforward and can be answered in minutes. For example, often authors want to know how much it would cost to send a letter in a different era (World War I is particularly popular just now), or how long it would take for the letter to arrive. Some require a lot more work and often we rely on the specialist knowledge of our Philatelic and Museum Curators to point us in the right direction. These enquiries we do throughout the day whenever we are not directly helping an onsite visitor or carrying out other projects, such as research or cataloguing projects.

Retrieved archive items.

Retrieved archive items.


Normally lasts around an hour and I am spoilt for choice with all the delicious markets around Freeling House.

Museum Visitors

Towards the end of the day we normally have a few visitors who, when they visit us, expect to see a national museum. Sadly at the moment the archive search room only has 4 display cases and although the Mail Rail photographic exhibition currently on display is very interesting, it is impossible to exhibit in such a small space the breadth of the museum, philatelic and archive collections. Luckily The Postal Museum will have much more room to better display the collections.


Our public behind the scenes archive tours normally kick off at around 3pm. I really enjoy the opportunity these tours give to show off the variety of our collection from the beautifully written 17th century account books to a first edition Ulysses to original telegram artwork by designers such Rex Whistler. The interaction that the different members of the public have with the items is always different, meaning that every tour is different. Public tours can be booked online, we also organise ad hoc tours to groups.

Set-up for a tour.

Set-up for a tour.

At the end of the day…

I need to put away all the original archival material that I have been using to answer enquiries and the archival material that visitors have been using. If the search room has been quiet and the enquiries are finished this is normally a good time to update our reference library with any new books or journals that have come in.

The search room closes at 5pm and I head home soon after to have a glass of wine.

-Penny McMahon, Archivist/Records Assistant